As the candidates for the next U.S. presidential election continue to enter the race, the challenge before them is similar one that most of us face everyday at work, persuading children, volunteering, and dealing with family issues. When we’re trying to “put our best foot forward,” we need to know what that means in terms of persuasion.
Each year that I’ve taught persuasion and negotiation classes and ones on politics as well, early on we’ve discussed what constitutes a powerful claim, as opposed to peripheral ones. Often people approach persuading others by dumping their best or favorite arguments. The-more-the-merrier approach to persuasion is usually ineffective. It’s important to assess which claims are likely to get and hold the attention of others. Too many claims result in what I’ve written about in my books as “claim clutter.” The most influential people are skilled at selecting effective primary claims from among the claims and data they have to support their arguments.
In a blog posted this week, I explain one way to do this. It’s not all that’s required to set up persuasive arguments, but it’s a strong start. You’ve probably heard the phrase “lining up the ducks.” With persuasion, the ducks are claims used to support a position. To the extent that you’re proficient at this, you substantially increase the likelihood of being influential.